Belfer Iran Brief—Speculation on extending the JPA and other news

Belfer Iran BriefAs the July 20 deadline approaches, will negotiators reach a deal or simply a 6-month extension of the interim nuclear agreement? This question and more in this week’s edition of the Belfer Iran Brief, covering May 31-June 6, 2014.

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By Andrew Wojtanik

Highlights

  • Ayatollah Khamenei proclaimed that “a military attack is not a priority for Americans now. They have renounced the idea of any military actions” against Iran.
  • IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano noted that Iran has “engaged with the agency substantively” on explaining its past military activities but also advocates “speeding up” discussions to address remaining concerns.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif declined Saudi Arabia’s invitation to attend a regional conference in Riyadh.

Diplomacy and nuclear issue

  • P5+1 nuclear experts held “intensive, technical negotiations” with Iran in Vienna. (GSN, 6/6)
  • State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf: “The United States is not signaling that we are prepared to extend the Iran nuclear negotiations, period. We are working towards the July 20 date, and we believe we can meet that date.” (GSN, 6/3) Note: Harf’s remark comes after a series of anonymous quotes suggesting a 6-month extension of the interim nuclear deal is likely.
    State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf
    May 8, 2014 - State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf answers press questions. Harf denied this week that the U.S. is sending signals in favor of a six month extension of the Joint Plan of Action. (Basri Sahin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
  • IAEA Board of Governors called on Iran “to provide all the relevant information to the agency, to address fully the substance of all of the agency’s concerns, and to accelerate its cooperation with the agency.” (Reuters, 6/4)
    • IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano noted that Iran has “engaged with the agency substantively” on explaining its past military activities but also advocates “speeding up” discussions to address remaining concerns. (Reuters, 6/2)
  • EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, a key player in the P5+1 talks, plans to retire by the end of the year. (al-Monitor, 6/2)
  • Obama administration is expected to nominate Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks, as Bill Burns’ replacement as Deputy Secretary of State. (al-Monitor, 6/2)
  • Senate and House committees will hold hearings on Iran to get “an update as to what is happening and also…looking at what happens the day after an agreement.” (al-Monitor, 6/4)
    • Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA): “Any nuclear agreement in which we cannot completely verify compliance would be an open invitation for Tehran to continue its secret nuclear weapons program, forcing the world to live with the permanent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.”
  • Israeli poll revealed that 40% of Iranians are willing to surrender the ability to produce nuclear weapons in exchange for full relief from sanctions. (NYT, 6/6)
    • But only 9% said they were willing to concede a civilian nuclear program.
    • 70% of respondents support current negotiations with P5+1.

Sanctions and Iran’s economy

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani: “This year is the year of economic growth and the resistance economy. We must strive to stand on our own feet in various fields of science and technology and make the country no longer dependent on importing foreign products [in these fields].” (AEI, 5/30)
  • Rep. Royce pressed the State Department to explain how it would respond if Iran and Russia finalize an expected $20B oil-for-goods deal. (GSN, 6/3)

Iranian domestic politics

  • A well-known Iranian reformist dissident posted a video on the Internet of a speech by Revolutionary Guards Commander Mohammed Ali Jafari suggesting that Iran rigged the 2009 elections. (BBC, 6/1)
  • President Rouhani criticized reactionary clerics in Iran: “Some people seriously have nothing better to do. They have no work, no profession, they are with delusions. They are incessantly worried about people’s religion and the afterlife. They know neither what religion is nor the afterlife, but they’re always worried.” (al-Monitor, 5/31)

US-Iran relations

  • Iranian hackers have reportedly used a fake LinkedIn account to pose as former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. (NYT, 5/30)
    • (The real) John Bolton: “I’m honored they picked me. They must have been looking for the most anti-Iranian regime person in Washington. I’m proud to win that award.”

Geopolitics and Iran

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif declined Saudi Arabia’s invitation to attend a regional conference in Riyadh. (Brookings, 6/5)
  • Sheikh Sabah, emir of Kuwait, met with Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran. (AEI, 6/2)
  • UAE sent a trade delegation to Iran for the first time in eight years. (al-Monitor, 6/4)

Israel

  • Israel argued that Iran is providing “false” explanations in an IAEA inquiry concerning its past military activities. (Reuters, 6/5)

“Red lines,” “points of no return,” and military strikes

  • Ayatollah Khamenei: “America cannot do a damn thing. They realized that military attacks are as dangerous or even more dangerous for the assaulting country as they are for the country attacked…A military attack is not a priority for Americans now. They have renounced the idea of any military actions.” (NYT, 6/4)

Uncertain or dubious claims

  • No significant developments.

 

Andrew Wojtanik is a research assistant at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.